A promising sign from Nick Castellanos in Phillies spring training
A promising sign from Nick Castellanos this spring originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
If you were hoping to see Nick Castellanos bust out of the gate this spring and reassert himself as the offensive force he was in the five years prior to signing with the Phillies, it hasn't happened yet. He's 3 for 24 in camp, hitting .125 with two homers and five RBI.
But more than spring training stats, Castellanos is focused on improving his plate selection. In that regard, he's taking some important and promising steps. Over-aggressive chasing of pitches outside the strike zone was a major problem for Castellanos last season from opening day until Game 6 of the World Series. He had his moments, most of them in April, but by midseason, nearly every pitcher was attacking him the same way, by trying to get ahead in the count or induce a weak groundball with a low-and-away slider Castellanos was seldom able to lay off.
Castellanos saw a breaking ball away off the plate 256 times last season and swung at 71 of them (28 percent). Of those 71 swings, 39 resulted in outs, 53 were swinging strikes and just four were hits. He hit .043 on low-and-away breaking balls.
Castellanos, who hit an opposite-field, two-run homer Tuesday against the Braves, has already walked seven times this spring. It has clearly been his point of emphasis, as he walked a combined seven times in his five previous camps from 2018-22.
"Whenever you put the work in and you want to build on something and it translates, it's always a good feeling," he said Tuesday. "The biggest thing for me is just getting back to a relaxed place in the box. It doesn't matter how good your swing is, if you're not getting anything to hit, you're not going to hit the ball hard. Being able to get in good counts, swinging at the pitches I want to swing at and taking first when they give it to me is everything that I'm focused on right now."
Castellanos has played a lot this spring. His 31 plate appearances are fourth-most on the team behind Darick Hall, Edmundo Sosa and Alec Bohm. Castellanos was the only Phillies regular to appear in their first road spring training game, and he was in the lineup Wednesday for the sixth time in the last seven games. He's been hitting third and fourth over the last week with Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner and J.T. Realmuto away from the team for the World Baseball Classic.
Entering the second season of a five-year, $100 million contract, Castellanos is trying to regain the muscle memory of spitting on pitches he can't handle. He's moved closer to the plate and closer to the pitcher. It could make certain pitches on the inside corner harder to handle but it should also help with his coldest zone low-and-away. The closer proximity could also help him eliminate pitches that appear too low or too far away.
"He's seeing the ball, he's not jumping, his head's not moving," manager Rob Thomson said Tuesday. "He's halfway through his walks total of last year. I think he's had good at-bats all spring and they're really coming.